Hunger relief organizations in the Twin Cities brace for impact of possible government shutdown

Hunger relief organizations in the Twin Cities brace for impact of possible government shutdown

Hunger relief organizations in the Twin Cities brace for impact of possible government shutdown

Non-profits providing food assistance to Minnesotans are bracing for the impact of a possible government shutdown.

Congress has just over two days to pass key spending bills to avoid a shutdown.

If they don’t, millions of federal workers will stop being paid, and some federal programs will no longer receive funding.

“There’s going to be a whole bunch of people who need a little extra help if this happens,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.

The Brooklyn Park-based non-profit is one of the nation’s largest hunger relief organizations, distributing food to more than a thousand food shelves and food programs across Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

O’Toole said their partners are reporting a 50-70% increase in need from last year, noting that many families are living paycheck to paycheck in the face of ongoing inflation.

“It’s just like an ongoing emergency or crisis situation. You add the shutdown into that and it’s just too much,” O’Toole said.

If the government shuts down, Minnesota’s 17,000 federal workers would stop getting paid.

The White House has said WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children that provides nutritional aid to low-income pregnant women and children up to age 5 — would also suffer from lack of federal funding.

The Minnesota Department of Health notes that WIC serves 106,000 Minnesotans every month, including nearly 40% of the babies born in Minnesota, and would be able to operate through the first part of October if a federal shutdown occurs.

If a shutdown lasts longer than a few weeks, non-profits believe WIC recipients may end up having to turn to food shelves for help.

Meals on Wheels is also trying to determine the impact of a government shutdown on their food delivery services to seniors and people with disabilities.

Metro Meals on Wheels is about 60% federally funded.

“We would have to think seriously about what to do if a shutdown lasts more than a couple of weeks,” said Metro Meals on Wheels Executive Director Patrick Rowan. “The last thing we’d want to do is cut people off but we would have to seriously consider whether we can allow more people to join the service or if we would have to limit the number of meals per week we’d give to any one individual.”

He said the longer the showdown in the nation’s capitol continues, the bigger the impact on local non-profits. “We’re caught in the middle looking at what we have on hand to be able to continue services.”

“This seems like a political scuffle that’s taking place on the backs of the most vulnerable,” Rowan said.

Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz pledged support, saying:

“I have directed my state agencies to take every step available to communicate with Minnesotans and mitigate the impacts of a federal shutdown.”

Gov. Walz

The Governor noted he will be regularly convening his cabinet to share information and explore creative solutions where possible.